Pots of Gold at the End of the Rainbow: What is Success for Open Source Contributors?

Bianca Trinkenreich, Mariam Guizani, Igor Wiese, Tayana Conte, Marco Gerosa, Anita Sarma, Igor Steinmacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Success in Open Source Software (OSS) is often perceived as an exclusively code-centric endeavor. This perception can exclude a variety of individuals with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, in turn helping exacerbate the current diversity & inclusion imbalance in OSS. Because one's perspective of success can affect one's personal, professional, and life choices, to support a diverse class of individuals we must first understand how OSS contributors understand success. Thus far, research has used a uni-dimensional, code-centric lens to define success. In this paper, we challenge this status quo to reveal OSS contributors' multifaceted definitions of success. We do so through interviews with 27 OSS contributors whose communities recognize them as successful, and a follow-up open survey with 193 OSS contributors. Our study provides nuanced definitions of success perceptions in OSS, which might help devise strategies to attract and retain a diverse set of contributors, helping them attain their unique 'pot of gold at the end of the rainbow'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3940-3953
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • Open source software
  • career
  • qualitative analysis
  • success

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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